I went to an ordinary comprehensive school and in the first year the classes were all mixed ability. However, in second year the classes were streamed according to how well you did in the exams.
So, if you were in the top 20% or so, you had to take Latin in second year. At that time you needed your Latin Higher if you wanted to study medicine, pharmacy or law.
It soon became clear that Latin was quite handy for all sorts of reasons though. I’ve always been keen on gardening, even as a youngster and botanical names hold no terrors for you if you just learn a wee bit of Latin.
If you come across a new word, you can often work out what it means without looking it up as so many of our words are Latin based. And that goes for other foreign languages too.
For example: the word window is –
fenetre in French
Fenster in German
finestra in Italian and
fenestra in Latin
Of course English being awkward just has to buck the trend and do its own thing, so the word window comes from the old Norse word vindauga meaning wind-eye.
We do use fenestration meaning the arrangement of windows in a building, and defenestration which is the action of throwing out of a window – usually a person. I remember that a council planning officer was particularly narked at me because I knew what fenestration meant and he thought he was going off into technical speak to bamboozle me.
Anyway, I ended up doing Latin for three years and I can’t say that I’ve regretted it even although the days are long gone when I could translate The Rape of the Sabine Women from English into Latin. Actually, when I think about it, my teacher might say that I never could.
I discovered recently that Latin has been dropped from the curriculum altogether, in the East of Scotland anyway. In fact the last Latin teacher, who has recently retired, had been used to fill in for absent teachers of any subject. Which I think is a horrible way for anyone to have to end their career.
Apparently, lawyers do a crash course of legal Latin terms in their first year at university and that is deemed to be enough. So what has Latin been replaced with. I’ve got a horrible feeling that it is something like media studies or drama.